After having been away for many years from that little town of Dunedin that I grew up in, I remember going back for a short visit and noticing all the changes that had occurred since I was last there. Woods I played in as a boy were replaced with condominiums, and a lake that we had fished and swam in was also long gone. So much was different that it hardly seemed like that same place of my earlier days. That was either because of the many new developments that I hadn't seen before or the many old places that were still around, but now appearing so much smaller, as if they had shrunk, such as the houses in my old neighborhood. Plus, some of the older areas didn't appear to have been kept up very well as they once had been. It was actually a little sad to see so many things that were no longer the same.
Sometimes there are those things of past environments that we wish would never change, that they would continue to blend in with how we remember them of many years prior. But, alas, though it sounds paradoxical, change seems to be one of those things that never changes.
In the midst of my longing for familiarity of days gone by, I then began thinking about God and His word and found great comfort in knowing that if I live to be 100, God and His word will still be the same. For He never changes. That truly is something to be thankful for and reassured in. Consider, for example, what the Bible teaches on this: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). Also, Jesus says of His word in Matthew 24:35 that "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." So though so many other things change, God and His word remains the same.
Note, too, what the Hebrew writer says about Christ in Hebrews 1:10-12: "And, 'YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.'" Therefore, even after this universe ceases to be, the Lord will changelessly continue.
In thinking of the various metaphors that the Bible uses in referring to God, how about the idea of Him being called a "Rock" to depict His strength, His unchanging nature, His permanence, and His being a solid and sure foundation?
David refers to God as being a "rock of strength" (Psa. 31:2); and Job speaks of that which is engraved in a rock as being "forever" (Job 19:24), indicating its permanence. Notice how Isaiah expresses that eternal nature of God in Isaiah 26:4: "Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock."
In thinking of a rock symbolizing a sound, sure and, unchanging foundation, consider also Psalm 40:2: "He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm." To walk in miry clay would be like walking in deep mud or a swampy ground. It would be difficult to maneuver in that, and it would probably pull off your shoes in trying to do so. But in contrast to that, we think of David walking surefootedly on a solid rock by the help of the Lord.
The "rock" is also used to symbolize refuge and protection. For instance, in Isaiah 32:2, "Each will be like a refuge from the wind And a shelter from the storm, Like streams of water in a dry country, Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land." How helpful it would be to come across a huge rock in a hot, sun-scorched land to have protection in its shade from the blistering sun or from a sharp, piercing sandstorm.
The psalmist writes, "But the LORD has been my stronghold, And my God the rock of my refuge" (Psa. 94:22). When Saul and his army were closing in on David and his men in the wilderness of Maon (with David and his men on one side of a mountain, and Saul and his on the other), a messenger came to Saul, which caused him and his men to have to give up their pursuit of David in order to deal with a Philistine raid. So that place came to be called "the Rock of Escape" (1 Sam. 23:28). But more so than to just this physical rock, David looked to the Lord as being the source of deliverance. Notice, for instance, 2 Samuel 22:2-4: "He said, 'The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.'" (Consider also what David goes on to say about the Lord in 2 Samuel 22:5-25.)
Therefore, more so than any rock -- even if at mountain size -- is the Rock of Ages who can truly meet every need of those who are His. For example, we have seen that the Edomites felt well secure -- and arrogantly so -- in their lofty dwelling places among the rocks; but they, apparently, had made that their only trust and had deceived themselves into thinking they were invincible in their natural fortress. But, as a result of their pride, God Himself would bring them down, according to Obadiah 1:3,4: "'The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock, In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to earth?" Though you build high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,' declares the LORD."
So regardless of the various good things a rock can symbolize, none of them can even come close to what is so about God Himself. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, had made mention of this fact in one of her prayers: "There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God" (1 Sam. 2:2).
To the psalmist, his refuge was in the Lord to whom he prayed to "Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come...For you are my rock and my fortress" (Psa. 71:3).
We sometimes talk of being down in the valley or up on the mountain top in describing periods of sorrow and depression in contrast to periods of great joy. Notice, for example, David's request in Psalm 61:1-3: "Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that his higher than I. For you have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy."
We sometimes think about God being our rock in some of the songs we sing. For instance, "The Solid Rock." It begins by saying, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand."
The first reference in the Bible to "Rock" being used to figuratively represent God is found in Deuteronomy 32:4; but let me also include verse 3. The passage says, "For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He."
As we think about God being referred to as a rock in the OT, since Jesus is also God, He is also a Rock for us today, as we can see in the prophecy about Him in Isaiah 28:16: "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.'"
That "stone" was to be laid in Zion, which was a section of Jerusalem that David had built up, but also used to refer to all of Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus was crucified; and by His death, He made the foundation for the church possible.
Zion sometimes also stands for the church (see Heb. 12:22,23). The foundation being first laid in Jerusalem is also seen in Acts 2, which is the glorious fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:3: "For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." As a result of this, verse 2 shows, "The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it." This "mountain" represents God's authority, which the church is built upon. It is an authority greater than all others -- and Jesus embodies that authority.
Compare this to Matthew 16:18: "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it." What is the "rock" Jesus is referring to? Read Matthew 16:13-18. The "rock" pertains to the confession Peter had just made about Jesus, as seen in verse 16: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." So Jesus is that rock that the church would be built upon, which also corresponds with 1 Corinthians 3:11: "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." So Jesus is the only foundation for the church. Therefore, the phrase "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph. 2:20) would pertain to the message of Jesus that they had taught.
As we think more about this rock that is representing Jesus, let us look at it a little more carefully. It is said to be a "tried" or "tested" stone (Isa. 28:16). This term was used commonly in regards to metals which were tried in the fire to test their quality. It was also used to refer to a purification process in which metals would be refined (cf. Job 23:10, Psa. 66:10; Zech 13:9; 1 Pet. 1:6,7; 4:12).
But Christ had no "dross" in His life to be refined away. So in what sense was He tried or tested? He was tried by the devil. Matthew 4:1-11 speaks of the time the Lord was tempted three times by Satan. But the Lord never yielded to any of those temptations and defeated the devil by using the word of God, which is "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). Jesus was also tried by men who were continually striving to find fault with Him and using false accusations. He was also tried by His Father in heaven. (Though God doesn't tempt anyone to do wrong, according to James 1:13, He does test people to see if they will do what is right. He, therefore, allows us to go through temptations and trials.) Concerning Jesus, the Hebrew writer states, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
So Jesus was a "tried stone." Men could see the life He lived, even under extreme cruelties; and He always lived above reproach. As one source states, "The idea is, that God would lay for a foundation not a stone whose qualities are unknown, and whose stability might be doubtful, but one whose firmness and solidity were so fully known, that the foundation and the superstructure would be secure" (Albert Barnes).
Jesus' life is one we can praise, admire, and strive to imitate. He was a tried stone, yet always remained true and faithful to His Father in heaven. Even Christ's words are filled with power. For they are "spirit" and "life," as Jesus Himself declares in John 6:63; and the people during the Lord's time on earth could recognize, through what He taught, the great authority which He had possessed -- an authority that surpassed that of their scribes (cf. Matt. 7:28,29).
Everything about Christ is of great value to the believer: the Lord's actions, His words, His death, His resurrection, His ascension back to the right hand of God, and His reign as the great King of kings and Lord of lords.
Therefore, the value of that "tried stone" to the believer is "precious" (1 Pet. 2:6,7). How wonderful Jesus is toward us! The atonement He made to save us from our sins is of more value than all the wealth of the world. Peter says, "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with PRECIOUS BLOOD, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18,19).
Only Jesus could provide the world with the needed atonement by His own death. It is also Peter who states in Acts 4:11,12, the following: "He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Christ is precious to the believer because the believer realizes that Jesus underwent much sacrifice and suffering just to make a way of salvation possible; and in doing so, He also manifests a far-surpassing love for every lost soul.
If Christ is precious to us then we need to be sure that we our building upon that great spiritual foundation of which our Lord is. This is done by our hearing and taking heed to God's word, as the Lord shows in Matthew 7:24-27: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall." Corresponding to this, James declares, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (Jms. 1:22).
So let us come to Jesus today, on His terms, that we may build upon the solid Rock -- the Rock of Ages. For then we will have God's help through all of life's difficulties and to be able to pass through the Judgment Day into eternal glory.
by Tom Edwards
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